APUSH Discussion Groups: Was Lincoln the best president? (No)

While I disagree with my given stance, this was the position given to me to argue, so I had to take it. I like arguing the on the losing side anyway; it’s much more exciting and fresh. In any case, since each side of the debate is made up of a team of two people, my partner and I decided to split up the ways in which we would argue that Lincoln was not the best president. I was responsible for talking about his economic policies during and after the Civil War. As always, the outline is written in the least amount of words possible since they only serve as pointers to what I’ll actually say during the debate.

Stance: No (economic)

Synthesis and Thesis:

   Each president has one thing they are known most for. For Harry Truman, he was most remembered for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ensuring a speedy end to World War II. Because of that, he is often ranked pretty highly when it comes to his popularity as president. But during his two terms, he also created the state of Israel and the CIA and contributed significantly to the advent of the Cold War. In creating Israel against the advice of diplomats and the wishes of the Palestinians, he created the long war between the Jewish and the Arabs that continues to this day. The CIA would go on to interfere in the politics of numerous countries, stage coups and organise regimes of torture for several decades after its conception and in issuing the Truman Doctrine, he would effectively start the Cold War. These results from his actions didn’t seem to detract from his popularity despite their disagreeable long-term consequences. Similarly, President Lincoln was hailed as a hero for reuniting the halves of the US in the Civil War and then as a martyr after he was assassinated. But what most people don’t consider was the private agenda from which his policies sprung. In the end, the Civil War could have been shorter in duration, the South could have been spared from total destruction and Lincoln should have refrained from abusing his powers as president, but they didn’t happen so he was not, in fact, the best president the United States had or even the best president he could have been.

Points:

  • “Hamiltonian Economy”- favored the rich and powerful (and the North)
    • Raised tariffs 18.84% to 47.56% from 1861-5, would continue till after the War, will especially devastate the South
    • Return to National Bank and greenbacks
      • National Banking Acts of 1863 & 4, Legal Tender Act
      • caused massive inflation
    • brought back self-perpetuating debt (war bonds)
    • investments in farms, small businesses discouraged
    • overturned bank laws that kept the balance of wealth
    • banks, internal improvements and protective tariffs otherwise known as the “American System”
  • raised heavy taxes
    • used by gov’t in war efforts and well as not-so-war-efforts
      • ex: granted to Union Pacific Railway a huge swathe of land and $
      • ensured favors among big businesses with the Republican Party
  • contradicting economic policies
    • undermined the Homestead Act of 1862 by encouraging land speculation
      • <19% of land went to homesteaders
    • “spoils system”
      • allowed trade with South (cotton) for “special friends”
      • funnelled $10 million into Republican organisations
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